Why laptop sound is important

March 30th, 2010 in .Blogs .Home .Tech
Bobby O’Reilly

Last month I was lucky enough to have a play around with Asus’ new NX90 home entertainment laptop while it was on display at the CeBIT trade show in Germany.

It got me thinking. Every time I’ve turned on some music, watched a movie or played a game on a notebook in the last ten years, I’ve plugged in either a set of external speakers or a pair of headphones. It’s more than a habit, it’s second nature to me now. Laptops that cross my desk for review get muted straight away, and I dread having to turn them back on for an audio test.

Because the one thing I know is that they won’t be any good.

After a bag to carry it in, the first thing anyone who uses a laptop regularly buys is a set of speakers. Why do manufacturers even bother putting terrible tweeters into our portable machines? They might as well sell them without any speakers at all for all the use these tinny, quiet sonic failures generally are.

More to the point, why have we, the laptop buying public, put up with such second rate sound for so long? Laptops haven’t been just for word processing and filling in spreadsheets for years: most are hugely capable games machines and multimedia libraries, as essential to our digital lives as our mobile phones.

The NX90 and, for that matter, the entire N series shows what can be done when just a little bit of thought is given to a laptop’s sound system. They feature higher quality drivers, with more space inside the chassis to move air around and richer processing algorithms courtesy of Bang & Olufsen and ASUS’ Golden Ear team. The result is a warm, resonant sound that can compete with any small hifi system or portable radio.

What really struck me, though, was that this was the first laptop I could carry around from room to room and not have to worry about dragging another set of cables and power supplies around with me. It drove home how sound equipment has become an essential peripheral that stops laptops being truly portable.

It made me realise that good laptop speakers shouldn’t be a luxury or afterthought, they should be an integral part of the design of any portable computer. Hopefully the NX90 is just the start. It may be unusual looking, but one day all laptops should be made this way.

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